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Here/Now by Frances Clow

 

Frances Clow lives in New York City. She graduated from Stanford University where she was fortunate to take classes from many excellent writers in the Wallace Stegner creative writing program. Currently, she is studying to be a veterinarian and writing whenever she's not studying organic chemistry.

It’s a Sunday night tradition:

-I go and buy the cheapest bottle of red wine from California at the liquor store. I enjoy California wines more than wines from other regions—Oregon, France, Italy, Long Island. The liquor store is two blocks from my apartment. My apartment is in New York City, the Lower East Side of New York City. I buy the wine. I return to my apartment, my apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City, two blocks from the liquor store. I open the wine with one of my three wine openers. I most often use the opener I bought at David Bruce Winery in Los Gatos, California. I like to use it; it is the easiest to use. I use the other two wine openers at least once a week. If I didn’t use them, there would be no reason to keep all three. I pour the wine into two glasses. I drink from one. He drinks from the other, he who lives in my apartment with me, my apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City, two blocks from the liquor store. We sip the wine.

-We choose one of the three violent movies that I order from Netflix every week. Every week, I order three violent movies that we have not seen before. Occasionally, I order the same violent movie several weeks in a row if it never gets picked. If a movie isn’t picked after being ordered for five weeks, I don’t order it again. Except for once. Once, I did order a movie again that wasn’t picked after five weeks. It was a year later; one of his co-workers told him that it was really good. Bloody. We drink the wine; we watch the chosen violent movie. When the movie is over, the wine is gone, we go into the bedroom and fuck. After we fuck, he goes to sleep. I lie next to him as he sleeps for one or two hours. Then I get up, read on the couch for two or three hours. I fall asleep on the couch for four or five hours.

-My favorite movie is The Departed. It’s violent, has two highly attractive male leads. One of their names is Matt Damon. The other is named Leonardo DiCaprio. He who lives in my apartment with me likes The Departed; it is not his favorite movie. He picked it the first time I ordered it, over Blood Diamond and Hotel Rwanda. When I told him it was my favorite movie after we were done watching it, before we were fucking, he said that I should order it again, for another Sunday. I said no; he said I should, because it is my favorite movie; he kissed me.

-This Sunday we are watching There Will Be Blood, drinking a bottle of wine called “Infinity” made in the Central Valley of California. On Sunday, I always get the cheapest bottle of red wine from California, but other times, when I choose bottles of wine, I choose based on a combination of factors, weighted equally—how the label looks, what the name is, whether or not it was produced in the year 2002. 2002 was a good year for grapes in California. I read this information in a magazine called Food and Wine. Food and Wine is my favorite magazine; I have a monthly subscription; it automatically renews every year. I have had the subscription for two years. I have lived in my apartment for three years. The first year I lived in my apartment, I bought Food and Wine magazine every month from the grocery store, nine blocks from my apartment, the opposite direction from the liquor store. After a year, I realized that I had purchased Food and Wine Magazine for four dollars and fifty cents every month, overall spending forty-two dollars that year on Food and Wine magazine, plus tax. I then found out the price of an annual subscription, twenty-one dollars including tax; I have since saved twenty-one dollars per year.

-There Will Be Blood is violent, a good movie. The wine is fruity, full-bodied. We finish the bottle before the movie is over; it’s all right; the movie is good; we are not distracted. After There Will Be Blood is over, I turn off the TV. I do not eject the DVD. I will do it tomorrow. On Monday morning, I take the two DVDs we did not watch, re-address them to Netflix. I then eject the DVD that we watched from the DVD player, re-address that. Then I pick up all three DVDs, take them to the nearest mailbox. The nearest mailbox is on the corner where the liquor store is. The liquor store opens at 10:00 a.m. on Monday; it is never open when I go to drop off the DVDs; I go at 9:00 a.m.

-There Will Be Blood ends. I turn off the TV. I go into the bathroom. I wash my face with my face cleanser, made by the brand Lancôme. I brush my teeth with my toothbrush and my toothpaste, both made by the brand Crest. I gargle with mouthwash, made by the brand Act. I go into our bedroom. I take off my clothes. He doesn’t look at me; we don’t fuck. I guess I knew then.

.  .  .

Conversation 1: September 5, 2005

“Are you using that bosu ball?”

“What?”

“Are you using that bosu ball?”

“What’s a bosu ball?”

“That.”

“Oh. No. I’m not using that bosu ball.”

“Thanks.”

.  .  .

Conversation 7345: April 23, 2007

“I can’t take it anymore.”

“Take what?”

“Everything.”

“Everything?”

“Everything. You know what I mean.”

“I don’t.”

“You do.”

“I don’t.”

“Don’t be difficult.”

“I’m not being ‘difficult.’”

“Like the other night. With the wine bottle. It’s not the end of the fucking earth if I put a wine bottle in the trash instead of the recycling.”

“I care about the environment.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Recycling is good for the environment.”

“It’s not just the wine bottle. It’s everything.”

“If you want to be asshole and not recycle anymore . . .”

“You are completely missing the point.”

“Am I?”

.  .  .

Conversation 2: September 8, 2005

“Just wanted to let you know that any bocce balls near me are free.”

“Good to know. Thanks.”

“I’ve seen you here before. You come at the same time I do.”

“Or you come at the same time Ido.”

.  .  .

-I’m not crazy. But I do know that we are supposed to be together forever. I’ve known since I was 19 years old, really since I was 7 years old. I didn’t even know him at 7 or at 19, but I knew of him, and when I saw him that first time crossing Delancey, I knew it was him. I sound crazy talking about knowing who I am going to be with forever and saying it in a way that is not cheesy, sappy or romantic, but I’m not crazy. I’m being straightforward, factual. I’m going to be a lawyer. I understand, respect, facts. I can tell you that what I am saying is undisputable.

.  .  .

Conversation 3: September 12, 2005

“Here again.”

“Here again.”

“You wouldn’t want to grab a drink sometime?”

“Perhaps.”

“Perhaps?”

“Yes.”

.  .  .

-I am 7, in the Caribbean for a spring vacation with my parents. We’ve arrived, it’s warm, all I want to do is get in the pool, stay there till it gets dark. First, we have to get lunch. Everyone is hungry, except for me. We go to the beach side café. I order a hamburger. I am surprised; I eat the entire thing.

-I am heading to the bathroom, I can’t understand the waiter when he gives me directions, I am lost. I am walking down a corridor; there are no signs. The air is cool, musky, smells faintly of mildew, also of a spice, a spice I still dream of. I turn a corner, she is there, staring at me, staring at me with eyes, dark, almost black but not quite, piercing. Her skin is dark, lined, but she is not old. I can’t look away from her face, her gaze, steady, focused. She stares; I stare. Then I look down. At my feet. I’m wearing Birkenstocks.

-I am off, fast as I can, willing my legs to move faster, back towards my parents, the sticky, humid air, smelling of salt, that same lingering, ever inescapable spice. My parents are done eating, we leave, I am silent, change into my bathing suit, swim, swim.

.  .  .

It’s a Monday morning routine:

-I clean the kitchen. I start the process of cleaning the kitchen by wiping off the counter tops. Then I clean out the fridge. I have a sponge that is specific to the two jobs of cleaning out the fridge and wiping off the counter tops. I avoid mixing this sponge up with the sponge that I use to clean the dishes by using specific colors for each type of sponge. The sponge for the counters and fridge is purple; the sponge for the dishes is orange. Sponges come in packs of four at the corner store where I buy them. One is orange, one is green, one is purple, one is blue. The blue sponge I use for the bathroom. I clean the bathroom on Fridays. The green sponge I throw out; I do not like the color green. After I clean the kitchen counters and the fridge, I clean the stovetop. To clean the stovetop, I use a scouring sponge. I buy the scouring sponge in whatever color is on top of the pile at the corner store, because there is no other area where I use a scouring sponge, no potential for mix-up. After cleaning the stovetop, I make sure there are no dishes in the sink. There never are many; I clean dishes every night at 11:15 p.m., sometimes during the commercial break of The Daily Show, sometimes not, depending on the day of the week, whether or not The Daily Show is on. The Daily Show is a TV show I enjoy watching. Jon Stewart is the host; he makes the news interesting, humorous. I do not enjoy reading the newspaper, watching the news. He who lives in my apartment likes to watch the news; I do not pay attention.

-The next step in cleaning the kitchen is to sweep the floor. The kitchen of my apartment is a separate room off of the living room. If it were part of the living room, I would sweep both the kitchen and living room at once. Since it is not attached, I sweep the living room on Wednesday.

-It is any other Monday. It is any other Monday; I’m cleaning the kitchen. It is any other Monday.

-The last step is to spray glass cleaner on the fridge and on the lid of the trashcan. It’s amazing how much dust accumulates during one week.

.  .  .

Conversation 4: September 15, 2005

“This place looks really good.”

“I’ve never been here, but I always walk by.”

“Where do you live?”

“Five blocks west, on Chrystie.”

“Fun.”

“You?”

“Orchard and Stanton.”

“Nearby as well.”

“We do go to the same gym.”

“We do.”

“You want wine?”

“I’d love wine.”

“What type of wine do you like?”

“I like all wine.”

“I like that answer.”

.  .  .

-I am 7, in the Caribbean for a spring vacation with my parents. It’s the second day of our vacation. I am sitting by the pool. I am not allowed to swim for 30 minutes, we just had lunch, in the dining room. I refused to go back to the beachside café, I said my hamburger was horrible, my parents were confused, I ate the whole thing, but they like the dining room, my dad had excellent sea bass.

-It’s boring, sitting, by the pool but not in it. My dad is reading a book, my mom is reading a book, I am not reading a book.

-I want to go down to the ocean, to stand near it but not in it; I am petrified of jellyfish, sharks, sea urchins; I watched a movie about creatures of the sea. My parents say I can go down to the ocean as long as I stay where they can see me. I go down to the ocean; I stand near it but not in it. I look into the water; the surf laps against my toes.

-I am staring at the ocean, looking for jellyfish, sharks, sea urchins, surf lapping against my toes. I do not see her; she taps me on the shoulder. I jump. I imagine jellyfish, sharks, sea urchins; it’s her. Same dark skin, same lines, same gaze, steady, piercing. The air fills with the smells of salt, fish, sun block, the spice, the spice stuck in my memory. I am frozen in her gaze, her dark eyes, can’t move, can’t run away. I am stuck, feet slowly sinking into the wet sand of the beach, deeper, away from the world.

-She speaks, gravelly voice.

-You are about to get sick. Very. You will almost die. You won’t. You will come back. There is more to tell. More to hear.

-I stare at her, eyes locked with eyes. I hear my mom. She is calling my name; I turn.

.  .  .

-I am 17. I am graduating from high school in two weeks, turning 18 in three months, three weeks, and six days, going to college in August, leaving home in June. Things are changing. I am going to have sex with my boyfriend. Things are happening.

-His name is Jake. He is tall, has good arms. He plays lacrosse in the springtime. He played soccer in the fall; we weren’t together then. I like the way he looks at me, the way he kisses me, the way he tells me he wants to be my first. I don’t ask if I’ll be his first. I already know. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he holds me outside my dorm at night; he doesn’t tell me he loves me.

-I go to prep school. There is a code at prep school. Rule: Never wear Abercrombie. Rule: Always wear pearl earrings. Rule: If you are a girl, never use a tray when getting food in the cafeteria, use a single wooden salad bowl. Tiffany bracelets, Jack Rodger sandals, plaid. Houses in Aspen, Boca, Montauk, Nantucket. Took me a year, then I knew the rules. Rule: Never trust anyone. I don’t trust Jake. I know he just wants to have sex with me. I know he’ll tell everyone about it when we do. I know this. I don’t care. I’m not in love with him. I want to have sex. I want to do it before I graduate from high school. I tell my friends that I am in love with him; they hope that I will get screwed over, that they will have inside information. They don’t know shit.

.  .  .

-As it turned out, she was right. I got sick. Very. Almost died. Later that same day, after swimming all afternoon, I lay on a starched hotel duvet, crying, holding my stomach. Two days later, I was in an operating room. Three weeks later, I was home. Four days later, I was in the hospital again. Three operations, four rounds of antibiotics; I was saved.

-I forgot her words. No. I didn’t. I knew them. Exactly. I knew how many words, their exact order. They pounded in my ears, as I got a sonogram. They circled around my mind, as I ate plate after plate of green Jello, St. Patrick inspired. They surrounded me in the night, as I thought about the last meal I’d had, three months before.

-And I did go back. And she did tell me more.

.  .  .

-One day in college, I decided, enough. I was in chemistry class. We were learning about hydrogen bonding. I realized I had no idea why I was there, why I should care about hydrogen bonding. I didn’t like chemistry, I didn’t want to be a doctor, I was stuck in a classroom of pre-med’s with bloodshot eyes, a consequence of too much Red Bull/coffee/Rockstar, too little sleep, too much stress, too little sex, too much beer, too hard mattresses, too noisy roommates. Everything fell into place.

.  .  .

-I survived. She was right. I hoped. I prayed, to whatever God my mother made me, that since she was right about part of it, she would be right about all of it. That’s what I held onto, as the doctors told me I needed surgery, then another, another.

.  .  .

Conversation 4: September 15, 2005

“How was your ravioli?”

“Great. Yours?

“Great.”

“Nice pick on the wine.”

 “Want to grab a drink somewhere?”

“Where?”

“There’s a place around the corner.”

“I know where you mean.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

.  .  .

Monday afternoon:

-I run errands. The stops are the liquor store, the corner store, sometimes the hardware store, if we need light bulbs. I have a supply of light bulbs under the kitchen sink in case a light bulb in one of the lamps in the apartment burns out; I don’t like having dark areas in the apartment. If something burns out, I replace it with a spare light bulb, then make sure to get a light bulb at the hardware store the following Monday.

-Monday is the only day I run errands; I have to be organized, effective. I always go to the hardware store first, if I need to, because it is the farthest away and what I purchase there is the lightest. Then I go to the corner store, because it is the second farthest and both liquor and food are heavy. I restock the basics.

-We order food in on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays nights. On Friday, we go to dinner at a restaurant four blocks away, in the opposite direction of the liquor store, in the direction of the hardware store. It is reasonably priced, serves basic Italian fare. I get gnocchi with a browned-butter-sage sauce. It is good; no reason to try anything else. On Saturday and Monday, I cook dinner. On Sunday, we eat the leftovers from Saturday. He eats the leftovers from Monday for lunch throughout the week. I do not eat anything that has been in the fridge for more than two days, unless it is bottled juice or cheddar cheese. Cheddar cheese is supposed to be aged; I read this in Food and Wine Magazine, my favorite magazine. I do not like any other cheese besides cheddar cheese. I know that the editors of Food and Wine Magazine would disapprove of my close-mindedness, but I make up for it by being very open-minded in other areas of food, like fruit juices. I will drink any type of fruit juice, except for tomato juice. Tomatoes are commonly mistaken for vegetables. If this were in fact true, then there would be no fruit juice I don’t drink. Unfortunately, tomatoes are a little recognized fruit, so I can’t make such a definitive statement. Very few things in this world are definitive. This much I know, and I’m sure the editors of Food and Wine Magazine do as well.

.  .  .

Conversation 4: September 15, 2005

“I feel like I’ve seen you before.”

“You have. At the gym.”

“I mean, before that.”

“Before you didn’t know what a bosu ball was?”

“Before I was so greatly enlightened.”

 “We live near each other. You probably saw me on the street sometime”

“I guess that must be it.”

“It’s amazing how small New York can sometimes feel.”

“I know.”

“Want to come back to my apartment?”

“Perhaps.”

“Perhaps?”

“Yes.”

.  .  .

-Memories fade. It is the way the mind protects itself, so goes common psychological reasoning. But I remember. I remember my mom crying. It was her birthday. We agreed that it wasn’t actually. Didn’t count. She stuck at 44. I remember shouting at my dad. I hadn’t been allowed to eat or drink anything but green Jello for two months; he brought a mini carton of Tropicana orange juice into my room. I can see my dad crying in the car. I didn’t actually see him crying in the car, but it happened. Some things you just know happened; some things you just know are going to happen. I remember having to pose for a picture to hang on the wall of the pediatric wing that saved me. I wanted a picture of me running, playing soccer, I was really into soccer. Instead, I had to brush my hair, smile, wear a velvet jumper. I remember refusing to back down to four boys from the third grade when they teased me for wearing a body suit, no elastic around my stomach. I remember fighting, digging, clawing.

.  .  .

Father and me, persuading:

 “Puerto Rico?”

“Yes, Dad, there is a really good Spanish language school there.”

“Spanish?”

“I feel like languages is the one area where I am really behind. Everyone at college spoke like five languages, fluently.”

“You know Latin.”

 “A language no one even speaks. Also, I don’t even remember it.”

“Why can’t you just take Spanish at school?”

“You don’t learn a language, unless you have to speak the language.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. I’m just going to go, learn languages, see new places, then I’ll be right back at school next fall. I swear.”

“You swear?”

“I love school. I love learning. I love chemistry. I just need a moment to do other things, so I can really realize how much I love school, learning… chemistry.”

“I’m through trying to reason with you.”

“It’s already done.”

“Some things can be undone.”

And some things cannot. As my father, carrier of the Tropicana orange juice container well knows.

.  .  .

Conversation 5: September 16, 2005

“Orange juice?”

“Coffee.”

“I really am going to call you. You know that?”

“I think I do.”

.  .  .

-Puerto Rico is nothing like I’d imagined; it is not Puerto Rico at all. The money my Dad put into my checking account for a Spanish language school is paying for a mid-priced hotel in St. Thomas with an over-chlorinated pool, overwhelmed mothers, and a three star rating on Expedia.com.

-I’d gotten sick, hadn’t died, now I am back. Three things said. Three things happened. It is my choice to come. It was not my choice to have my appendix explode. It was not my choice to live.

-I am 19. I am here. I am staying at my three star Expedia.com hotel. I am working as a waitress at a restaurant down the beach. The hotel I stayed at with my parents is now a Four Seasons, renovated, fancier. It’s easy to get a job. I’m white, attractive, simple. Just what other white people want in a waitress.

.  .  .

-Jake and I have sex one and a half weeks before graduation, after Senior Dance. Rule: Prep Schools do not have “proms;” they have Senior Dances. Rule: Everyone wears pastel dresses. Rule: No rhinestones. Rule: Don’t even think the word polyester. Senior Dance takes place at the house of a student; his name is Ryle. Ryle’s father owns a TV Station. Ryle’s mother owns award-winning teacup poodles. Ryle is a bastard. He cheats on math tests; everyone knows this. He fucked a freshman in a music practice room after walking her back a week; not everyone knows this. Rule: No one dates; a boy walks a girl back to her dorm before nightly check-in; this is a relationship.

-Jake and I sit at a table with four other couples. They are not important. We dance a bit, eat a bit, talk a bit, wander off and make out a bit. Jake wants me to give him a blowjob behind a hydrangea bush; I say no. At 9, the dance is over; we are on the bus going back to school. From there, a second bus will take those of us who were invited to the after-party. Jake wants me to give him a blowjob on the bus; I say no.

-The after-party is at a polo pony farm owned by Milas’s parents. Milas was born in the U.S., has never lived anywhere else, speaks with an Argentinean accent. His father is Argentinean, mother German. Milas is going to Harvard in the fall. The admissions office was impressed that he got a 750 on the verbal SAT when English wasn’t his first language.

-Milas’s parents have limited alcohol to Budweiser beer. There are five red plastic tubs filled with ice and Budweiser beer. I have a flask, in that flask is vodka. When your parents have a wine cellar filled with thirty bottles of Smirnoff, they don’t notice when one goes missing. Everyone wants a hit; I give a sip to Lily because her boyfriend broke up with her a week before Senior Dance, she looks like shit, wearing a yellow dress. I give Jake some too; he drinks more than half. After three Budweiser beers, slightly less than half a flask of vodka, I am feeling warm, dizzy. Jake is looking at me.

-Jake has brought an air mattress. And a condom. Three condoms. The air mattress inflates behind a tool shed; Jake and I make out. He feels me up; I take off my shirt, red plaid, Ralph Lauren. Rule: Polo shirts must be Lacoste or Ralph Lauren, Le Tigre if you are from California. I’ve seen Jake’s penis before. I’ve given him 18 blowjobs over the two months of our relationship. Now it is out again. I take off my jeans, made by the brand Seven. I lay down on the mattress. It is pretty comfortable for being an air mattress and for being behind a tool shed on a polo pony farm. Jake is excited. He comes down, lays next to me. He takes one of the three condoms, puts it on his penis. Then he crouches over me, guides his penis into me. It is painful. I don’t say anything; I say that it feels really good. He moves a bit, touches my left boob, he is done. He asks if I want him to do anything else. I say no, put my Seven jeans back on, my Ralph Lauren, red-plaid shirt back on. We deflate the air mattress, walk back to the party. Someone has passed out on one of the rocks surrounding the bonfire. Jake says he is going to draw a dick on the guy’s forehead, goes to find a marker. I sit on a neighboring rock, look at the fire, which after vodka, beer, and sex is beautiful.

.  .  .

Conversation 7346: April 29, 2007

“You have to talk to me… please. We can’t continue to not talk… Do you think this sort of bullshit is going to make me reconsider?”

“Make you reconsider? Like I’m some sort of publishing deal.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“You should think before you say fucking stupid things.”

“Okay.”

“What is there that you want to talk about?”

“A lot.”

“Like what? You want to move out. What else is there?”

“I’m not a complete asshole.”

“You’re an asshole.”

“We have some major problems.”

“Problem number one: you’re an asshole.”

.  .  .

Conversation 181: October 20, 2005

“I really want potatoes.”

“What type?”

“Mashed? Maybe au gratin.”

“Baked?”

“With sour cream and chives.”

“I’ve never been a big chive guy.”

“I used to not like them. But I used to not eat anything.”

“Anorexic?”

“Really picky. For a year, I’d only eat plain pasta with butter.”

“Nutritious.”

“Lots of chocolate. Ice cream. Cookies. It’s a miracle I wasn’t obese.”

“I ate everything as a kid.”

“My parents would have loved having you around. To set a good example.”

“Did you ever want a brother, sister?”

“I liked being the only child. I got all the attention. All the cookies.”

“I only got a third of the cookies.”

“Poor baby.”

“Yes, I was tragically starved as a child.”

“I’ll share my cookies with you.”

“Will you now?”

“We are talking about sex, right? Because I don’t share food.”

.  .  .

Conversation 15: September 21, 2005

“Nice nails.”

“Just got them done.”

 “Red.”

“Hot?”

“Yes.”

“Thanks.”

.  .  .

Tuesday:

-I go to work. I work every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as a paralegal at a law firm that provides consultation at low prices for those who can’t afford “expensive, hot shot lawyers.” Those are the words my boss uses when he describes our niche in the New York City law scene. We have a sign outside our office that says “Fast, speedy divorce $400. No spousal signature required” in English, Spanish, and Mandarin. I work part-time, so I don’t have to be provided with healthcare. I get healthcare through a company called Blue Shield. Blue Shield promises to pay a percentage of all my bills if I end up in the hospital in exchange for monthly payments. For bills under 2,000 dollars, they pay 40 percent. For bills between 2,000 and 5,000 dollars, they pay 50 percent. For bills over 5,000, they pay 30 percent. Blue Shield sends me a card declaring that they are my insurance provider. They send me this card every year; every year it expires on December 31st.

-I have a desk at work. On top of it, I have five pens and a desktop computer. The desktop computer is from 1991. It is called a Dell OptiPlex 745. It often overheats, sometimes goes online, always emits a loud drone.

-During my day at work, I have meetings, fill out paper work, send emails when the OptiPlex 745’s Internet is working, have conversations with my boss, my two colleagues, clients. I am done by 5:00 p.m. Sometimes I get done at 4:00 p.m. One day last summer, the air conditioner broke; we all worked from home. One day two winters ago, I had the flu, called in sick. We don’t work on major holidays. We don’t work on two non-major holidays, Columbus and President’s day. Otherwise, I go every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

-I go to class every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. I have class at night Tuesday, I have class during the day Monday, Friday. When I’m in class, I take notes, check email on my laptop computer, a 2004 MacBook, learn how to be a lawyer. On Tuesday, I go to class from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. I take the F-line subway to class; I take the F-line subway back from class. I return to my apartment, my apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City, between 8:30 and 8:50 p.m. depending on how fast the F-line subway arrives. Sometimes I have to wait 10 minutes for the F-line subway to arrive, sometimes I have to wait less than one minute if it arrives as I am walking down the stairs to the subway platform. I do not run down the stairs even if the train is already at the subway platform and I will miss it if I do not run down the stairs. Running down the stairs is dangerous, can result in serious injury. I do not want to be seriously injured, I would have to pay between 50 and 70 percent of my hospitals bill out of pocket; hospital bills can be sizeable.

.  .  .

Conversation 4356: December 25, 2006

“Don’t take that comment personally; my mom picks on everyone’s table manners.”

“Can’t say I’ve ever had someone yell at me for putting my elbows on the table before. I guess we ate like barbarians in my house.”

“It’s not her fault. My grandmother was worse.”

“No elbows on the table. Got it. Anything else?”

“Always use a salad fork when eating salad, talk to the person on your left first, never reach over someone to get a pepper shaker, tear off a piece of bread, then butter it…”

“I’m starting to figure out why you are the way you are.”

“Thanks.”

“I love you.”

“Even with such a mother?”

“Even with ten such mothers.”

“Oh, God.”

“Imagining that.”

“Yes. It’s terrifying.”

“Agreed.”

“We should go to bed. Believe me. No one sleeps past 7 in this house.”

“As in 7 a.m.”

“Yup. ‘Mornings are the most productive time.’”

“Even on boxing day?”

“Even on boxing day.”

.  .  .

Conversation 4: September 15, 2005

“Did you always know you wanted to be a lawyer?”

“Actually, I swore I’d never be a lawyer growing up.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, my dad was always working, never home. I hated his job.”

“What changed?”

“I guess I realized it was the right thing.”

“I bet you’re going to be a really good lawyer.”

“I’m going to be an amazing lawyer.”

.  .  .

-After one week and six days in St. Thomas, I go to the Four Seasons for the first time. The café is renovated, renamed the “Island Pear,” repainted a light blue, re-priced at $12.50 a hamburger. I sit outside. I order a hamburger, medium with cheddar cheese. I order a beer, Corona with lime. I eat the hamburger, medium with cheddar cheese and drink the beer, Corona with lime. I pay my check. I leave. I go back to my three-star-Expedia hotel. I call Room Service. I order six Coronas. I drink them while watching an episode of a show called Guiding Light. Someone has died, everyone is wearing black, crying, having sex with each other, using ultimatums like they are the next best thing.

-After two weeks and one day in St. Thomas, I go to the Four Seasons for the second time. I sit outside. I wear sunglasses. I order a margarita and ceviche.

-After two weeks and four days in St. Thomas, I go to the Four Seasons for the third time. I sit inside. It is raining. I order a Corona and fish tacos.

-After two weeks and five days in St. Thomas, I begin to go to the Four Seasons every day.

-After three weeks and two days in St. Thomas, I am fired from my job at the café because I keep disappearing midday.

-After four weeks and four days in St. Thomas, I am walking back to my three-star-Expedia hotel at 3:13 p.m. in the afternoon. The distance between my hotel and the Four Seasons is two point one miles. I walk it twice every day. There is a bus stop three-fourths of the way; people get on and off the bus. She is there, sitting at the bus stop. I don’t realize until twenty feet away. She looks the same. I avert my eyes, look down at the broken pavement of the road, walk faster, past the bus stop, back to my three-star Expedia.com hotel.

-After four weeks and six days in St. Thomas, I sit down next to her at the bus stop.

.  .  .

Conversation 6032: February 27, 2007

“Can you please not leave your shoes on the floor?”

“Can I please not leave my shoes on the floor?”

“Yes.”

“I thought the floor was a perfectly reasonable place to put shoes.”

“I got you that shoe rack in your closet.”

“I keep my shoes there, but when I walk in the door after working all day, call me crazy, but I like to take off my shoes and put them on the floor.”

“Why can’t you just take off your shoes, put them on the floor, then pick them up and put them on the shoe rack?”

“You really can’t handle my shoes being right there next to the door?”

“I can handle it. It’s not as if I am going to go crazy because your shoes are on the floor.”

“Then why can’t I just leave them there? I am going to wear those same shoes tomorrow. Really what is the point of putting them away?”

“Just because I am going to go to the gym tomorrow and get all sweaty doesn’t mean that I am not going to take a shower tonight.”

“That is not a comparable situation.”

“It’s the little things.”

“I know that all too well.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.”

“Can you please just put your shoes on your shoe rack? For me?”

.  .  .

Conversation 4: September 15, 2005

“You’re in law school?”

“I guess you can say it was fate.”

“How’s that?”

“Runs in my family. My dad’s was a lawyer. My mom loves to argue. Mostly with me.”

“Got to love parents.”

“She lives in Connecticut.”

“I went there once during college. To a beach. I was pretty much stoned the whole time. I can’t really remember.”

“Medicated is the only way to enjoy Connecticut.”

.  .  .

It’s a Wednesday night tradition:

We order food in. But this Wednesday. This Wednesday we don’t.

.  .  .

 “How did you know?”

“That’s not the question you should be asking.”

“What should be I asking?”

“What do I know?”

“I’m sort of interested in how. Did I look sick?”

“No.”

“How then? How is it possible?”

“That is not the question you should be asking.”

“Too bad. It’s the fucking question I am asking.”

“You don’t want to know what?”

“What?”

“You will finish school, live in New York City, become a lawyer. Your father will die when you are 22. The following year, you’ll see a man with a yellow and blue striped shirt, green eyes. You will spend the rest of your life with this man.”

“What the fuck?”

“This is my bus.”

.  .  .

-I left St. Thomas after five weeks and one day. I packed my bag: clothing, shoes, cosmetics, dirty clothing, hair dryer, sanity?

.  .  .

-Who would believe the random words of some most likely crazy black woman on some random island in the middle of the fucking Caribbean? Who would believe that everything this random most likely crazy black woman said comes true? Who would believe that your life was some sort of preordained map? Who would believe that some most likely crazy black woman would even have access to such a map if such a map did exist? Who would believe that your father actually does die when you are 22 of a heart attack? Who would believe that after your father’s funeral you apply to two law schools? Who would believe that you actually get into both? Who would believe that the following April you see a man with a yellow and blue striped shirt walking along Delancey when you are on the way to the dentist to get a root canal and yes, he has green eyes? Who would fucking believe that at the sight of this man you become obsessed? Who would believe that you follow this man, figure out where he lives, what gym he goes to, what grocery store he buys his God-damned groceries at? Who would believe that you move to the same neighborhood, join the same gym, use the same grocery store? Who would believe that one day after many days of trying to work up the nerve you talk to him and he actually fucking responds? Who would believe that a few days later this man has the balls to ask you out? Who would believe that this date turns into more dates, into living together? Who would believe that one day the man with the blue and yellow striped shirt, the green eyes tells you the he wants to fucking move out? Who would believe that she was right about it all except for the forever part? Who would still believe that random words of some most likely crazy black woman, even when he starts to pack boxes? Who would still believe after all that is said? Who?

.  .  .

-I am 22, and I am at my father’s funeral. It is a sunny day, warm for October. I am wearing black, a velvet dress and pumps. I am looking at my father’s coffin, about to be lowered into a grave. I am standing next to my mother. I cannot look at my mother, I look straight ahead, at my father’s coffin, about to be lowered into a grave. I am not crying; I am not crying. I am staring straight ahead at my father’s coffin, about to be lowered into a grave, and I am not crying.

-I am 22, and I am at my father’s after-funeral party. My father’s after-funeral party is at our house in Connecticut. It is catered; people still bring food. I am standing in the kitchen, cutting slices into a flourless chocolate cake. I cut the cake into halves, into quarters, sixths, eighths, tenths. I am cutting slices into a flourless chocolate cake. My mother is standing next to me. I cannot look at my mother, I look at the flourless chocolate cake.

.  .  .

-After Jake and I have sex, he wants to have sex again. He figures we should just stay together till graduation. He is going to school in New York State; I am going to school in New Jersey; we are not staying together. I tell him we can have sex again. We have sex nine times before graduation in a music practice room in the basement of the main building. Rule: The Big Men on campus must seek out a nerdy student who plays an instrument (preferably the cello, more space), bribe him in order to get a copy of the key to his music practice room and use said music practice room as a personal sex sanctuary. The first graduation party is at ski lodge; Jake wants to have sex in the backseat of my car, I tell him no. I find his best friend on the porch of the lodge, drink four beers with this friend, have sex with this friend in the backseat of my car. He is bigger than Jake, I tell him this. Jake passes out on the porch holding a beer can. It is a Natural Light beer can.

-Jake sends me an angry email two weeks later. The friend got drunk, stoned on Ritalin, confessed. I do not reply.

.  .  .

Conversation 120: October 1, 2005

“So, one day you just decided being a lawyer wasn’t so bad and applied to school?”

“It was after my dad died that I changed my mind.”

“Oh.”

“I guess I feel like I am remembering him in some way by becoming a lawyer.”

“I can see that.”

“I definitely would never have gone to law school if he hadn’t died.”

“You don’t talk about him much.”

“No.”

.  .  .

Conversation 7347: April 29, 2007

“You can’t leave.”

“Are you drunk?”

“You can’t leave.”

“You’re drunk.”

“Yes.”

“You should go to bed.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“You can’t leave.”

“I’m leaving.”

“You can’t. We are supposed to be together forever. Forever.”

“Don’t melodramatic.”

“I’m not being melodramatic. We are supposed to be together forever.”

“Grandiose statements. That’s the definition of melodramatic.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“You can’t leave. You aren’t actually going to.”

“I am.”

“No, you aren’t. She said I’d meet you. I did meet you. You have green eyes. You are not going anywhere. I know it. I know it.”

“Who said you’d meet me?”

“No one. No. No one.”

“You should drink some water.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No. No water. You can’t leave. You can’t.”

.  .  .

-I am 23, and I am watching him. I watch him go into Duane Reade, I watch him go into Whole Foods, I watch him go into Azul Bistro. I know it’s wrong. Wrong, bad, horrible. I still do it. I watch him, follow him; I like it. I like seeing him go into Duane Reade, Whole Foods, Azul Bistro. I like to know when he’s in the mood for steak. I like to know when he buys more condoms, what brand he prefers. I like to know that he has oatmeal for breakfast, cream in his coffee. I know all this; I like knowing.

-I am 23, and I am in law school. I am doing well, I am going to get a job at a big firm in New York City, work long hours, get promoted. A plan.

.  .  .

Conversation 7348: April 30, 2007

“How are you feeling?”

“Like hell…Sorry about last night.”

“You don’t need to apologize.”

“I do.”

“I’m going to stay with my brother until I can find a place. I think its best. You should eat something greasy. Helps with hangovers.”

“I will.”

“I’m going to go.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll call you about moving my stuff.”

“I love you.”

“Take care of yourself.”

.  .  .

 Father and me, saying goodbye:

“What are you studying these days?”

“Contracts.”

“And?”

“I like it.”

“Good for you.”

“Pretty interesting.”

“I thought so too.”

“Does mom really want me to come to that dinner on Thursday?”

“If you’re busy, not a problem.”

“I do want to come. I am busy.”

“Don’t come. If you’re busy.”

“I am busy.”

“I know.”

“I love being home, but I need to be in the city right now.”

“I was the same way. Focused.”

“Dad.”

“Yes?”

“I love you. Just wanted to let you know.”

“Just wanted to let me know?”

“Just wanted to let you know.”

“Try to be more optimistic.”

“I’ll take that into consideration.”

.  .  .

Thursday:

-I go to work. Once work is over, I go home. I order food on the Internet though a website called SeamlessWeb. SeamlessWeb is a website that lists all the restaurants that will deliver to your apartment, supplies their menus. Once you set up an account with SeamlessWeb, all you have to do is click on what food you want, it gets added into your shopping cart. Once you are done clicking on the food you want, you “checkout;” the website sends your order to the restaurant. The restaurant receives your order, makes the food, packages the food, sends the food out with a delivery boy. You receive the food, sign a receipt. It’s a great website, easy to use, accessible. I order food, it arrives. I order too much food. I’m not used to ordering for one.

.  .  .

-I am 25, and I’m in my apartment, my apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City. I am alone, in my apartment. I am painting my nails. I am not looking at the boxes in the corner of the living room. I am not looking at the boxes in the corner of the bedroom. I am not looking at the boxes; I am painting my nails, red, bright red.

.  .  .

-I see Jake at our five-year high school reunion. Our five-year high school reunion is in June, in a blue and white striped tent on the football field filled with bad food, good alcohol. Jake is still tall, his arms are not as good as before. I go up to him, he tells me I look good, I tell him he looks good. He gets me a drink, the drinks are free, but he orders it for me. We drink together, dance together, he tells me that he is working at an investment bank in Manhattan, I tell him that I am going to law school, he tells me that’s great. He tells me he lives in Midtown, I tell him I live in the Lower East Side. We drink more, I tell him that I am sorry for what I did with his best friend, he tells me he’s sorry he told everyone that we had sex. He tells me I look amazing, I tell him he looks pretty good, he tells me he wants to fuck me, I tell him we should go to my hotel room. We go to my hotel room.

-Jake says that we should see each other again, we both live in the city, I tell him no. He asks me why, I say that I am in love with someone else, he asks me who and I tell him no. I couldn’t tell him. Even if I wanted to.

.  .  .

Conversation 345: December 1, 2005

“Do you believe in God?”

“What?”

“I know. Random.”

“I do. Maybe. I’m not sure. I believe there is something larger out there. I mean, otherwise, what happens when the universe ends? Is it clear forever?”

“You don’t believe that something could go on forever?”

“No. It’s not possible. I don’t think infinity exists.”

“It’s mind boggling, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“Starting to.”

.  .  .

-After a year and a day, I see him again. A year and a day. A day and a year. He’s there, I’m here, I see him, he sees me. He sees me, looks down, looks up. Our eyes meet. He crosses the street; he is looking at me. I am in front of Off Track Betting, two blocks from where I saw him that first time crossing Delancey, wearing blue and yellow stripes, green eyes. Two blocks from where it all started, started and then ended. And now.

-I’m here.